Monday, June 28, 2010

West McDonnell Ranges

We left Alice Springs on Sunday 20th and headed off to the West MC D ranges. We had been in contact with our friends John and Vera and they were on their way to Simpson’s gap when we communicated using our CB radio. We passed them as we were going in, but caught up with them at Standley Chasm and had a chat..

We decided to continue on to the very end of the ranges to a place called Redbank Gorge. Just out of Glen Helen, a message came over the radio – “Anyone near Glen Helen Resort?” We responded that we were about 5k’s away, and they asked us to go in and report an accident that had happened further on. 2 Italian tourists had tipped over their car, and were injured (not badly). We duly went in and reported the accident – the person we spoke to on the radio had actually arrived by then, so at least the poor people would have got help. It was all a bit exciting being able to help in a crisis!!

We arrived at Redbank Gorge and have got a beautiful camp spot, right at the top of a ridge. We get the morning sun, and have enjoyed our breakfasts in the sun each day.

On Monday we headed out to Hermannsburg, an early mission station. We had to go along over 40ks of gravel road, but it was very interesting when we got there. This was the place that Albert Namijira grew up and we saw some of his paintings in the mission. We also saw the house where he grew up – well we think it’s his house – there was a sign pointing down a road, but then the actual house wasn’t clearly signposted, so we guess we were looking at the right house!

We decided to head off for Palm Valley from there. It was our first real 4WDriving. As we were driving along there was a car stuck in sand in the middle of the road. It was a lady travelling on her own, and Randall offered his assistance. He pulled out our MaxTrax and got the lady out of trouble. She drove off without even a wave of her hand for thanks. I will be eternally grateful that Randall bought those Max Trax, as I can see how easily you can get out of a bogged situation.

Our trip into Palm Valley took longer than expected so we didn’t get right to the end. We were running out of time to get back to our campsite, so we stopped at Cycad Gorge, which was beautiful, then had to turn around and head home. We drove through sand and water and over rocks, so we really had the true 4WD experience. We were glad to be able to use the car for its purpose – we had a great day!

Our next day trip out was to go into the gorges we passed as we came to Redbank Gorge. We drove into Orminston Gorge, Serpentine Gorge, we saw the Ochre Pits the aborigines used to get ochre – that was amazing! The colours were like the rainbow.

We also drove into Ellery Creek Big Hole – a young fellow went in for a swim while we were there. Each gorge has warnings about the extreme cold of the water, and there are life rings ready to be used as well!! It was a nice day, but not hot enough for a swim.

Our last stop was at Glen Helen, not far from our camp. All the gorges are so pretty, and have a quietness about them which is really peaceful.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Our Night Out in the Alice

We decided to treat ourselves to a night out last night, so we headed off for a nice tea (even took a taxi), then thought we'd check out the Casino while we were here. it's rather a nice casino - quite spacious and well laid out inside. Randall headed for the ATM so he could charge his pockets, then he headed to the poker table, and got himself settled. I decided to play blackjack so found a table and sat down. There were a couple of nice young fellas at the table and this rather naive young school teacher was standing behind them watching them play and asking some really silly questions. It was all good fun, and, though I didn't make any money, I certainly got value for my initial layout. Randall finished about the same time as me, except he came out on top which was good.
Since we came in a taxi, we had to get back in a taxi, but there were quite a lot of people waiting outside like us. Not to be outdone, Randall suggested we walk towards the highway, as we might have better luck waving one down. This was not successful, so Randall got out his phone and, using the Google Maps application, told me he knew the way home and to follow him - the walk would do me good. Thoughts of my good friend Karen rang in my head : "never walk around Alice Springs at night Deb". Anyway after what seemed like quite a long way, Randall realised we were heading the wrong way!!! So we had to backtrack about 2 kms before we got back to our original starting point, where I clarified that he was finally using the maps application properly!!! We then realised that we actually were only a very short way from the caravan park, so we kept walking and finally got home about 1 am. I might say that I saw absolutly no-one the whole time we were walking which would have been about 3/4 hour at least!!!
I had my pedometer on, and I had walked 21,000 steps all up. Very impressive I must say :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

King's Canyon

OMG!! What an amazing place. We really did not know what to expect when we headed off to King's Canyon. We stopped on the way to collect a bit of extra firewood for the firepot.

There were 2 possible places to stay near KC, one about 20k's out, at King's Creek, and one at the KC resort, 6k's from the Canyon. Both were ridiculously expensive - $19 per person for a powered site! So we stayed at the resort as it was closer. We lit our firepot, only to have the nazis in their electric powered carts come and tell us to put it out :( We were allowed to cook our bbq though and then put it out!

There were a few dingoes around, so the amenities had gates you had to open and close.

We got up the next day and headed off to the canyon. I was determined to do the rim walk, as my knee had recovered from the day at the Olgas, but I walked carefully this time. The start of the walk was straight up!

It was a beautiful warm day - the first time I had ventured out with just a t-shirt on. We took our backpack waterbottles, and was very pleased to have done that as it was a quite demanding walk. The views were spectacular, and looking across you would think that the people were about to go over the edge!

The pathway was natural steps in a way, and we really enjoyed the whole thing very much!

We walked right down to a place called the Garden of Eden which was really beautiful.

We got back a couple of hours later, really looking forward to our coffee and lunch! Then we did the walk into the canyon on the ground - just a little walk and very pretty.

We never cease to be amazed at all the plants and trees here - so interesting! We weren't expecting to see any plants in the centre, but it is ever changing.
As we left KC we saw a couple of dingoes slinking along in the grass, and some wild horses crossed the road ahead of us.
We have now arrived at Alice Springs, where it was a bit hard finding a spot in a caravan park - all full up! Naturally the most expensive one was available, it is very nice. We are now about to head off and check out the town, with a shopping list in hand.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Still at Uluru

We have been here for the last 3 nights and will stay tonight before heading off to King's Canyon tomorrow.
Our first full day we went to ground as it was so cold. There was no blue sky at all and very cold wind, so we just stayed in our caravan - I read a book, and Randall mucked around on his computer. Randall also used his culinary skills to make some bread, which is absolutely delicious!

We eventually visited The Rock and walked all around the base - 10 km at least. It was closed for climbing on the day we went, so we couldn't tackle it. We took so many photos as there was so much to take in. It is really impressive up close, and there is are a multitude of different trees and plants around it.
There was one really beautiful peaceful place we found - a gorge with a waterhole. It was totally quiet and still - just magic!

We were quite tired from the walk, but came back in the evening to see the sunset. It really did look amazing and we stayed over an hour taking photos.

We got up early this morning and headed off to see the sunrise - not nearly as spectacular as the sunset, and freezing cold, and we needed our coats and hats to keep warm.

We then headed out to The Olgas. They looked quite beautiful in the distance and again, they are quite amazing close up. We decided to do the Valley of the Winds walk first, as it was the longest. It sure lived up to its name! The wind was freezing in places, but we warmed up by the time we had finished the walk, 2.5 hours later! The walk was quite demanding - very steep and rocky and I really felt it in my dodgy knee, but it was worth it for the experience. We had an early lunch at the car - who would have thought vitawheat biscuits with cheese, and a mandarin could taste so good and then went on the next, much shorter walk called the Walpa Gorge walk.

We got back to our campsite at around 3pm after leaving at 6.30am, so I'm sure we will sleep well tonight!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


We are now staying at the camp ground at Yulara, about 20 kms away from Ayres Rock. We left Coober Pedy very early in the morning and filled up with water before we headed off.

We had a long day driving and had regular stops along the way.The price of fuel here is amazing - one place was $1.90 per litre!! We we very excited when we reached the border of SA and NT, as this was the first time we could say we have been to all states and territories of Australia.

We had our first night free camping at a rest area called Kernot Range. There were other caravans and campers there too so we felt quite safe. We were pleased to be able to use our firepot for the first time this trip. We had carted wood from Tasmania, and it burnt really well!

We were only 200ks from Yulara, so we left our campsite late morning. and got to Yulara about 1pm. When we got service on our phones a message came through from Randall's mate we met at Coober Pedy - he had set up camp here too! We communicated on our radio, the first time we had done that, so it was all a bit of fun. We got our first glimpse of Ayres rock about 40 ks away and it certainly is magnificent!
Yulara is a little town in the middle of nowhere, and is very pricey. The campground is enormous, and caravans come and go all the time. I met 2 of my students here - they came running along saying "hello Mrs Smith"!! It was really quite funny to meet them here.
We can't get over the red sand here. We acutally stopped on the way here to take a photo - Randall wants to put some in a bag to take home!

We are planning to stay here a few more nights. As yet we have not been to the rock up close, but will do so later today.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coober Pedy

We arrived in Coober Pedy on Monday after a long drive from Port Augusta. We left really early - 6.30am, which was a bit of a mistake as it was still dark, and there were signs warning to look out for animals, cows, sheep, as well as kangaroos and emus. There are no fences on the side of the road, and I did see one dead cow as we went along. The scenery was really interesting once it got light, varying from trees, to low shrubs to grassy plains then back to trees again. The land stretched away as far as the eye could see on both sides.

We had a stopped to refuel at each little township and stretched our legs. I even drove for about 100 kms, the road just stretched out in front of us, and it was really easy to pass other slower caravans. Randall passed a road train that had 3 'carriages' on it - apparently they can get 5 carriages!!!
We stopped at Woomera briefly, but it was a bit of a disappointment to us, and nothing was open as it was only about 8am when we got there. We had a bit of a walk around and looked at the rockets and planes on display.

We knew we were getting close to Coober Pedy when we started seeing mounds of gravel in the distance. Randall had been in touch with an old workmate who was also on the road, and he said he was staying at the Stuart Range Tourist Park, so we headed there straight away. We also knew that Randall's Aunt and her partner were also in Coober Pedy, so we looked out for their little A Van and sure enough, they were here too!!(There were 2 other parks they could have been in). They were on the mail run, and we knew they would not be back til late, so we left a note on their door. To add to all the fun, we saw Allan, the groundsman at Illawarra Primary- we'd also caught up with him on the boat. So, you can't get away from the Tasmanian connection!
The township is just so interesting - not a blade of grass, very messy, I suppose just like any mining town - Queenstown for example!

We did a tour the next day, going around various sites in the town, then out to 'the breakaways', an amazing geological feature a few kilometres out of town.

Our tour guide was an absolute pain, and talked far too much for our liking, a lot of it just stupid jokes etc. However we did see and hear about lots of local stuff so we put up with it. We drove out to the dog fence as well, a fence longer than the great wall of China. It was put up to stop the dingoes coming south to kill the sheep. It is called a dog fence now, as apparently there are no pure bread dingoes on the mainland, only on Fraser Island. (I've acutally been there and not seen one dingo!)

We have spent 3 nights here, and our plan now is to head up towards Uluru. I cant' wait to see it all- again, it is all new territory and wonderful to see such interesting places.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adelaide to Port Augusta

We are now in Port Augusta after an interesting and long trip from Adelaide. We had a bit of a late start, as we had caught up with some old friends from home as well as my sister and brother in law, the night before, and were very tired. (No, we hadn't overindulged!!)
We left Adelaide aroung 10am and stopped at a few places for things before we really got going. Our petrol stop at Dublin proved a bit funny. There was a local butcher there, so we got some meat fo make a schnitzel. I asked for some steak cut 1cm thick, only to be handed steak cut twice that thickness. Oh! said the butcher, if you'd told me it was for schnitzel.... Hello, what does 1cm thick mean to you??? Anyway, we got this adulterated meat but I think it will be ok for schnitzel:)
I had a nice sausage in bread next door anyway!
Our trusty GPS system led us astray yet again. We were looking for a nice camping ground suggested by BIL, and entered what we thought were the correct coordinates. We had gone quite a way off the highway and on this back road, when the 'man' said: "You have reached your destination"!!! To cut a long story short, by the time we got to the correct destination it was getting quite late and was very dim so we decided to cut our losses and head straight for Port Augusta.
The town is quite interesting and none of the houses have nice gardens like at home. They seem to be just gravel out the front with a few plants in a little kind of garden or nothing at all!!
The town was very quiet even for a Sunday, so we had a bit of a drive around then headed back to our camp for a relax.
As for the weather - it's the same as Tassie!!! Been about 16 degrees and cool overnight. At least all the clothes dried today - did a big wash.
Our plan is to head for Coober Pedy tomorrow - up very early and heading off around 7 am!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Well, we are spending a few days here in Adelaide to catch up with family and friends. Yesterday was my birthday, so Randall and I headed into town to see the pandas at the zoo. They were so cute - we both enjoyed looking at them.
Then we headed to Glenelg on the tram for lunch and a stroll along the beach, which was very enjoyable.
I went out for tea with my sister and her family to a gourmet pizza place - delicious!!!
Today I met Penny for a coffee in town and had a great wander around the Botanic Gardens. It was really beautiful, and the highlight was seeing these huge lilly pads in a pond.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day one on the road

What a busy few days!! Randall and I were absolutely exhausted when we left home yesterday at about 3 pm. Didn't leave much time for error to catch the boat but we got there in time .
Our cabin was rather luxurious thanks to Randall, with towelling robes, TV in the room and a double bed. All rather nice to kick start the holiday.

We got off the boat at 6.45 am and headed towards Adelaide. We decided not to stop at the Grampions as we hadn't got enough k's under our belt. We stopped at Ararat for breakfast, where our order was confused by the lady serving us, too bad what kind of milk coffee you ordered! We had another stop at Horsham to shop for supplies for tea only to have to ditch the fruit and veg at the SA border for fear of a fine!! Anyway, we are now at Keith for an overnight stop then off to Adelaide tomorrow.